Your heart is pounding.
You search around you for anything, anything, you can use to get yourself out of the metal cuff.
Or maybe break one of the strong chains.
Or somehow pry the stake out of the cage floor.
Anything to free you from your prison.
The entire time, you’re thinking of nothing but how badly you need to help Jack—to perhaps somehow warn him, or something—and prevent a catastrophe from befalling him.
Much to your dismay, you find absolutely nothing.
You rattle the cage out of frustration. The Nightmare neighs at you as if telling you to be quiet.
You slump down, your back to the cage wall. You’re desperate, panicking, worried beyond measure. You feel all sense of hope leave you, making you feel heavier than usual. You’re completely helpless, and you don’t like it.
Sandy…Tooth…Bunny…North…someone, ANYONE, please…help!
You close your eyes. The tips of your fingers find the small snowflake resting on your chest.
The small cold has an instant soothing effect.
“It won’t melt,” Jack’s voice plays in your head. “Not as long as you believe in me…”
You find yourself slightly smiling.
You relax. The two of you are going to get out of this safely.
You look over and notice that the Nightmare isn’t there anymore.
Wait…there are slight footsteps, hardly audible, coming from just behind you at the base of the stone path.
You stand up and turn to face their owner, anger flaring up within you.
“Pitch, if you don’t let me out of this cage this instant, I’m going to—”
A gust of wind blows. Your cage swings precariously to the side, making you lose balance and focus on not falling instead of facing the Nightmare king.
But it stays just oh-so-slightly tilted.
As if something—or someone—is hanging on the side, their weight a little bit back.
Clutching onto the cage bars, you look up.
Your gaze meets a pair of bright blue eyes.
Your eyebrows shoot up out of shock, a wide grin beginning to spread across your face.
“Jack!” you exclaim.
He smiles at you, flashing you his snow-white teeth.
“How’s it falling, snowflake?”
You run up to greet him, placing your right hand over his left’s curled fingers as they hold onto the interlocking bars. He’s holding his staff aside in his right, his feet perched on the bottom rim of the cage.
“Jack, you have to get out of here,” you begin to tell him in a hurried whisper. Even though you know that Pitch is already aware of Jack’s presence, you feel like you can still get him out in time.
Jack shakes his head. “I’m not leaving without you.”
Flattered, you begin to blush. You shake it off, remembering the urgency of the situation that you’re in.
“No, Jack, you don’t understand. Pitch. He’s planning something. He’s using me as bait, to get to you!”
“Pitch? The Boogeyman?” he asks, eyes skimming the outer part of the cage for the door. “Not possible, the Guardians have defeated him and kept him at bay since the Dark Ages.”
“It was him in the forest, Jack,” you tell him. His eyebrows shoot up. “I never got the chance to tell you. He… he was different then, though. He seemed less solidified, less real, less powerful. But he’s come back full-blast. I saw him, face-to-face. These things that have been going after us, the thing we beat in the forest, they’re called Nightmares. They’re his minions. He’s come back, Jack, and he’s planning something.”
He gives you a questioning glance. He hesitates. “All right. I believe you. We do need to get you out of here, though.”
You sigh out of frustration. “Jack. You. Have. To. Get. Ou—!”
You notice a Nightmare charging at Jack’s vulnerable back.
“Jack, behind you!” you shriek.
He turns around, hovering in midair as he fires a shot of lightning-like ice at the creature. It narrowly misses it.
It shoots past.
“Now, now. Don’t go hurting him. We need him,” you hear Pitch say from below.
You and Jack both turn to find him standing beside the globe, stroking the agitated Nightmare’s mane.
“Pitch,” Jack says, voice laden with distaste.
“Hello, Jack,” Pitch responds lightly as he steps from the Nightmare, smirking. “How are you doing today?”
You can just see the fury arise in Jack. His brow is furrowed, nose scrunched, lips twisted into a deep frown.
He lets out a war cry, charging head-first at Pitch, the hook of his staff pointed straight at the shadow prince.
“LET (YOUR NAME) GO!”
His shockwave of ice is meets with nothing but stone.
He lands on the platform, staff at the ready, head whipping from side to side for any sign of Pitch.
“Can’t we have a nice, civilized talk, Jack?” comes Pitch’s voice from the middle of the walkway.
Jack charges yet again.
“Mmmm. Apparently not,” Pitch says to himself.
You feel the floor beneath your feet give out.
You’re falling…falling…into pitch black darkness. Tumbling in every direction. It eats up your scream, no sound coming from you even though your mind says otherwise.
You open your eyes, a strong hand gripping your left forearm.
Your hands are tied behind your back with what feels like cold, damp sand. You try to break from it, but it’s as tough as thick rope.
Jack is standing a few feet from you, frozen in his charging step.
“Now…” you hear Pitch say directly behind you. You hear the slither of sand. Looking over, you see a short, medieval dagger forming into his right hand, made of the same sand as the Nightmares.
He presses the blade up to your throat. You step back into him. He maintains the pressure of the dagger. You never thought that sand could feel so sharp.
You look across at the spirit of winter.
Jack, your frightened eyes say.
“…let’s talk business, shall we?”
Somewhere, a drop of water falls to the stone floor, the drip echoing throughout the cavern.